Sunday, August 22, 2010
Holland 2010 – Week 9
Dear Family and Friends;
We have seriously died and gone to heaven!!!! This is what the original dream was all about – French language and French food! And while we are still only in Belgium, it still feels French. My Champagne region wine growing ancestors are smiling and greeting me from their 16th century graves - "Bienvenue, mon petite. Enfin, tu as arrivée." We now feel that we are on our way and that this year's journey has really begun. Holland has the most amazing havens and is very supportive of pleasure boaters but it is also lovely to be in a country that has more terrain. We climbed up through the south of Holland and as we got closer and closer to Belgium the landscape changed quite dramatically. It was a case of "A hill! A hill!" It is also really wonderful to hear a language with which we are both familiar. It will be some time before we are fluent (probably several years) but at least we can read a menu because, as you know, l'estomac est plus important!
Our first hill sighting!
It's hard to understand how the Belgique authority in charge of the waterways would even consider the closure of a major lock (écluse) on a major river (the Meuse) during the height of the summer season, but despite `zee little gray cells', some idiot did make the pronouncement and the lock at Andennes closed Monday morning for 3 weeks. I`m sure some Greek Deity made winter months for repairs and servicing but nobody told the Water Board! The original plan was to spend 2 nights in Liege but we had to miss it entirely and hurry to Huy to overnight and then get to the Andennes lock early Sunday morning. We were really surprised that the lock wasn't busier but maybe other boaters had known well in advance and had adjusted their cruising plans accordingly. We are just grateful that we got the information in time. The cruise from Maastricht to Huy was very long with some big locks so we were grateful to eat at the Yachtclub restaurant – our first non-Dutch meal in some time. We were also a little startled by the fact that the Customs representative at the first lock inside the Belgian border didn`t even ask to see our passports. He was more concerned to know if we were returning to Holland at the end of the season and if so, we would have to pay a fee to use their waterways. But as we were passing through on our way to France - `` C` est gratuit, Madame.``
Kinder, gentler locks in Belgium – but a lot more of them!
We are finding that the boating community is small-ish and friendly. When we were in Gennup in Holland last week, we met Willem (Wim) Gerrits. Wim had actually emigrated to Canada for a short time back in 1980. The early 80`s were bust years in our economy and Wim headed back to Holland. However, his English is still excellent and he and Phil had a great chat. Then, surprise, we were moored up in Namur and who should arrive but Wim and his wife, Loes (pronounced Loose) cruising in Belgium on their four week vacation. We had a nice visit and many chats and have promised to keep in touch. Phil had a terrible cold arriving in Namur and then I got it, so we were glad to stay in this lovely town for 4 nights. There is a lot to see – Namur is the capital of Wallonia and is also at the junction of the Sambre and Meuse rivers. At the point of intersection, way up on a high cliff is a very imposing citadel (walled fort) built centuries ago. Our moorage was directly across from the foot of the cliff and we had the most amazing view of the citadel lit up at night from our aft deck. We tried to find the little train that would take us to the top only to discover later that it was out of commision for the week so we ended up walking almost to the top. Phil was amazing – he made it without re-injuring his Achilles. He has definitely turned a corner. But once at the top, prudence exerted itself and we toured the facility from the comforts of the other little train that was working!
The little ferry which took us to the other side of the Meuse (so Phil didn`t have to walk)
The citadel during the day is quite imposing
...and beautiful at night!
This little train toured us around the complex so Phil didn`t have to walk even further
View of Calypso moored below the citadel wall – it is very high up here!
We finally took leave of Namur and headed to Dinant – another town on the Meuse River and a very busy tourist centre. The river on both sides are lined with restaurants and brasseries. It has an ancient cathedral with an interesting history - destroyed when part of the cliff came down in 1277 and rebuilt in 13th and 18th centuries. There is another citadel at the top of the cliff but not nearly so imposing or large as the one at Namur. But Dinant is very much restricted by the cliff walls – the town is built right up to and under them.
The cathedral is still tucked up and under the rock wall.
The cliff may tumble at any time!
One more day in Belgium and then .... you-know-where! The Meuse River between Dinant and Givet was truly superb. The river was calm, the landscape beautiful and lovely villages all along the shore. It was one of the best cruising days ever. Just as we imagined it!
Bayard Rock - very famous
Gorgeous calm cruising
We have arrived! (On one side Belgium, on the other France!)